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Porn again: Meet Morgana Muses, divorced at 45, adult movie star at 54

The film follows Morgana’s life from rough-and-tumble childhood games in the opal tunnels of Coober Pedy to a largely sexless marriage in Albury, much of it traced with inventive use of miniatures crafted by Peppard, whose background is in stop-motion and horror.

“I didn’t know much about porn at all,” Peppard says of her involvement in the project. “But I was interested in the idea of women taking back control of the imagery, making stories about female desire.”

She describes the film as a three-way collaboration. “You know, an animator, a porn star and a pornographer walk into a bar and make a film together.”

Much of the more adult stuff in the film was shot by Hess, Morgana’s 29-year-old cinematographer and regular collaborator.

The pair met five or six years ago when Hess, who was still a film student, scored some work on Morgana’s third film, directed by one of Hess’s lecturers at Swinburne, Anna Brownfield.

“There was something that just clicked,” she says, “and we were friends immediately, despite the 25-year age gap.”

An animator, a porn star and a pornographer walk into a bar and make a film together.

Morgana Muses

While it’s primarily a portrait of Morgana’s journey from powerless despair to body-positive agency, the film can’t help but shine a light on the little-known world of pornographic filmmaking in Australia. And the body-positive, queer-skewing, feminism-inflected space it reveals is far from the morally murky terrain of mainstream porn.

“I think porn is like any industry – it’s got its ethical producers and its unethical,” says Hess. “There’s no monolith porn industry in Australia, just a bunch of independent creators. People like to think of it as this evil, dark world but the truth is the productions are for the most part safe, clean, and wanting to do right by your performers.”

Morgana’s work goes well beyond the usual staples of the form; in some of her recent pieces, there’s no sex at all. In one, The Life of Bi, she explores her mental health struggles, telling the camera “I am a filmmaker with clinical depression and bipolar tendencies”.

There’s no sense, though, that she’s not in control, either in her own work or as the subject of Peppard and Hess’s film. “They’ve depicted me in a very accurate manner,” she says. Despite being as exposed as it’s possible to be, she adds, “I always felt very safe and protected”.

Though she acknowledges her films have a limited audience, Morgana says she has been surprised and gratified to realise her tale does not.

A scene from Morgana.

A scene from Morgana.

“I thought my work and my story would target women over 40 or 50, but I’m actually getting a lot of men contacting me to say, ‘Thank you, because I’m not in a good place in my marriage, I feel like my life is over and there’s nothing there for me’,” she says.

And what is it she thinks they connect with?

“It gives them hope that there is no expiration date on their wanting to explore life and sexuality,” she says, “and to have a fulfilling sex life.”

Morgana screens at the Capitol on Friday at 9.15pm followed by a panel discussion, and at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins Auditorium on Saturday at 11.30pm. Details: miff.com.au. The Age is festival media partner

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